Zach Britton’s most recent outing was an encouraging one for scouts, writes Jon Heyman of Fancred in his latest notes column. One scout tells Heyman that the Orioles’ closer was finally beginning to look like himself in a recent save against the Yankees. Heyman notes that Britton was throwing 96-98 mph, although data from both Fangraphs and Brooks Baseball isn’t quite as bullish as that scout’s radar gun was. Certainly, though, Britton’s past few outings have been encouraging. In five scoreless frames, he’s averaged a slightly improved 95 mph on his heater and posted a strong 66.7 percent grounder rate with four strikeouts against one walk. Britton has thrown a first-pitch strike to just 41 percent of the hitters he’s faced in that time, and his ground-ball rate, velocity and swinging-strike rate are all still shy of his peak levels. Nonetheless, he’s certainly trending in the right direction — a welcome sight for the Orioles. Heyman notes that the Astros are believed to once again have interest in Britton after the Orioles backed out of a trade involving him last season, which would’ve sent Colin Moran and a Double-A outfielder to Baltimore.
Some more Thursday night trade rumblings…
- Heyman also notes that he’s heard the Red Sox mentioned in connection with Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield. The 29-year-old has reportedly drawn interest from the Phillies and from the Brewers already, and the Sox would be a logical addition to that market, depending on the status of Dustin Pedroia. As Heyman notes, Merrifield is particularly enticing for the Sox given his minimal salary and their proximity to the top tier of luxury tax penalization. He’s shown, too, that he can play a number of positions, which would make him ideal for a utility role if the Sox get everyone healthy. That said, there’s no characterization of particularly strong interest in the report, the Sox have a thin farm system, and the Royals are under no urgency to trade Merrifield, who is controlled through 2022. Bullpen help has been rumored to be Boston’s primary focus on the trade market so far.
- One more from Heyman, who notes that the Mets aren’t especially anxious to listen to offers on lefty Steven Matz. New York will certainly entertain offers on its entire roster, as they’re at least listening on Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, but it sounds like Matz is closer to that pair than to the more available Zack Wheeler. The report also indicates that offers for Asdrubal Cabrera, to this point, have been underwhelming and that the Mets have actually received some inquiries about Jose Bautista, who was hitting .230/.389/.425 in 144 PAs for the Mets before homering in tonight’s contest.
- Sticking with the Mets, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that the team actually hasn’t received much in the way of inquiries on eiher deGrom or Syndergaard as of late (Twitter link). The general sense that the asking price would be overwhelming could be a factor; as Puma terms it, some teams may have sticker shock “without even seeing the sticker.” Puma also tweets, though, that the Mets are “confident” they’ll find a trade partner for Cabrera. That, he adds, would open a spot for 26-year-old Jeff McNeil — a potentially late-blooming prospect who has batted a combined .346/.417/.634 with 18 homers in 336 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A.
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News takes a look at the situation in which the Rangers find themselves with Adrian Beltre. The third baseman has full no-trade rights and has not yet given indication about whether he’d prefer to play out the season with a contender, though he has said he wants to play with the Rangers again in 2019. “His value to the organization is above how we would normally consider trade acquisitions,” GM Jo Daniels tells Grant. “For us to consider anything, it’s got to be mutually beneficial, good for all parties involved.” Beltre, 39, hasn’t shown much pop but is hitting .288/.349/.401 on the season. He’s been DHing more of late in an effort to keep his legs healthy.
- Though the Braves have a number of wants on the trade market — specifically upgrades to the pitching staff — they’re reluctant to trade any prospects of note for a rental piece, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic within his latest notes column (subscription required). Rosenthal also notes that a right-handed-hitting center field option to pair with Ender Inciarte would be appealing, though Inciarte’s glovework is so good that it lessens the blow of his 2018 struggles against lefties.